Undoubtedly the most direct route to a green card, the EB-5 Visa Program is intended to stimulate investment in the U.S. economy and to create employment; in return for which, international investors are permitted to become permanent residents of the United States and subsequently to apply for US Citizenship.
Congress created the fifth employment-based preference (EB-5) immigrant visa category in 1990 for qualified foreigners seeking to invest in a business that will benefit the U.S. economy and create or save at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. It is Section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) who make an investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and who plan to create or preserve ten permanent fulltime jobs for qualified United States workers, are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence).
The basic amount required to invest is $1 million, although that amount is reduced to $500,000 if the investment is made in a rural or Targeted Employment Area. Of the 10,000 EB-5 green cards available each year, 3,000 are reserved for foreign nationals who invest through a Regional Center.
The Regional Center Program
To encourage immigration through the EB-5 category, Congress created the EB-5 Regional Center (Pilot) Program in 1993. A Regional Center is a private enterprise or corporation or a regional governmental agency with a targeted investment program within a defined geographic region.
The Regional Center Investment Program does not require that the foreign investor’s enterprise itself directly employ 10 U.S. workers. Instead, it is sufficient if 10 or more jobs will be created directly or indirectly as a result of the investment. The Regional Center Investment Program aids foreign investors by directing and professionally managing their investment in the designated business and geographic focus of their Regional Center.
A Regional Center obtains its designation by submitting a detailed application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application must state: (1) the kinds of businesses that will receive capital from investors; (2) the jobs that will be created directly or indirectly as a result of the investment of capital; and (3) the other positive economic impacts that will result from the investment of capital. This program, in many ways mirrors long active and successful investment-employment based programs in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other foreign nations.